§ 4.2 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI rose to call attention to the continued high level of unemployment, including unemployment among the professional workers and other black coated workers, despite the need for increased production to meet the requirement's of the war and to avoid the danger of inflation; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the observations which I venture to offer to your Lordships in support of the Motion are really an addendum to or continuation of the important debate last week initiated by Lord Balfour of Burleigh. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, informed your Lordships that there was only a limited quantity of goods to be bought, and that if spending power was not reduced prices would rise and there would be danger of inflation. The noble Lord also pointed out that there would be competition between civil needs and the needs of the Services for a limited supply of goods. That argument, of course, was very sound, but it left something out, and my noble friend Lord Snell in a very few words supplied the missing part of the argument, which is that we have a great potential of production which we are not using, represented by the great number of unemployed. Our contention on these Benches is that one of the remedies for inflation—to which we are all opposed, and which we wish to avoid as much as anyone else—is to increase production.
§ We cannot say that we are doing everything possible to increase production while we have this great army of unemployed. The figures are somewhat of a mystery to me, but I gather that about 1,300,000 people are unemployed. The Government seem to take great credit—judging by their presentation of these figures over the wireless—for the fact that we have 500,000 fewer unemployed than we had twelve months ago. I know that the noble Earl opposite is not responsible for what is said over the wireless, but I suppose that someone in the Government is responsible. But, my Lords, I submit that even if we had had 735 no war, with the immense programme of armaments which has come into force during the last twelve months we should naturally have expected at least 500,000 fewer unemployed. In addition to that, of course, we have had the great recruitment for the Services and the enrolment of whole-time workers for civil defence. With great respect to the Government, therefore, I do not think that they can claim any credit for an improvement on the figures of twelve months ago, and I do not think for a moment that the noble Earl will attempt to put forward that defence. Indeed, if we take into account the half million men who have been called up under the Military Service Acts and the great number of volunteers, I would say that the real figure of unemployment has increased in the last twelve months.
§ The Minister of Labour, for whom I have the greatest admiration, explains all this away. He says that there are seasonal workers and men changing their jobs and people who are registered for the first time and who were formerly black-coated workers, and there are the casual workers. His great excuse is the weather. When I read the speeches of the Minister of Labour, and still more when I listen to them, I find my senses being drugged into the belief that there is no unemployment at all. The truth is, however, that after every possible excuse and explanation have been given, and while it is difficult to extract the facts, hidden away somewhere in these statements by the Minister of Labour we find that there are immediately available for re-employment 600,000 people among the insured workers. That is the irreducible minimum, after taking away all the casual and seasonal workers and so on.
§ On the other hand, there is also a great reservoir of unused labour-power not registered at all. There are the women. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us some weeks ago that two million women would be required for munition production. I had a momentary thrill of hope when I heard that; I thought, "Here is someone in the Government who really understands the crisis through which we are going." There are the black-coated workers, the shopkeepers who have been ruined by evacuation, and the hotel and boarding-house keepers and their staffs. There are all sorts of people who are only too willing to help 736 in the national effort, but who do not appear in these figures at all. One estimate which I have seen is that there are 400,000 business and professional people looking for work. I do not know whether the noble Earl has more accurate figures, but let us suppose that that is an exaggeration and that there are only 200,000 of these black-coated workers of both sexes available. Let us suppose that out of those 200,000 there are only 100,000 who are fit for production themselves or who could take the place of men, many of them skilled workers, who found their way for patriotic reasons into civil defence and other services where their abilities are being wasted. With real planning, you could take at least 100,000 black-coated workers who were willing to do something for the country and use them to replace these other people, skilled engineers in many cases, who have found their way into various services such as the Auxiliary Police, the Auxiliary Fire Service and so on. Those men came forward thinking that they would be called upon to do dangerous work, but I am sure that now they would be only too glad to go back to their own trades. I suggest that that is one of the things that could be done.
§ I do not want to underrate the difficulties with which the Government find themselves face to face. In a way, this apparent great volume of unemployment is really a maldistribution of labour. It is in part due to lack of mobility. For example, there is a shortage of shipyard labour in the working shipyards, but there are unemployed shipyard workers in such places as Jarrow, Pembroke Docks and other yards which were closed down under the Bank of England sterilisation scheme and which have not yet been reopened. I said just now that I do not want to under-rate the Government's difficulties, but a war in present conditions and in the present year of grace is a difficult operation. With the greatest respect, I submit that it is more complicated than the last Great War, and it is far more complicated than the Peninsular war. The methods which were so successful in the Peninsular or the Crimean war or even in the last war, with great humility I suggest to the Government are not necessarily sufficient to-day. Really we will have to embark, like the French and the Germans, on 737 heroic or revolutionary methods to meet these difficulties.
§ The existence of this mass of unused workers is, I submit, a most disquieting feature. It gives our enemies a lot of ammunition for propaganda—the "pluto-democracies" with their great reservoirs of idle workers and so on. The Germans have totalitarian advantages—I do not say they are in the long run advantages, and I am not suggesting we should adopt their methods; but it is a fact that the Nazis before the war had practically organised all their labour power. Not only that, but they had called back their nationals from the Baltic States and the Tyrol, and wherever else they could entice them from. They have brought thousands of slave labourers from Czechoslovakia and Poland, and they are negotiating with Signor Mussolini to get thousands and thousands of Italian labourers to help them out. There is a challenge for us as a democracy, and I do not think we will fail in responding to that challenge. The present Government may fail, but I do not think the nation will. Then again, we must consider the French nation. At the beginning of the war the French carried out the most marvellous mobilisation in the history of war. They mobilised 5,000,000 soldiers—a far greater effort than anyone had ever dreamt of—and to-day highly developed French agriculture is practically being worked by those splendid women of France and the old men and the youth. What are they going to say in France when they see by our returns that we have this great volume of unused labour power? The noble Lord, Lord Stamp, whom I am sorry to hear is not very well, said in that most interesting and important speech last week that we must cut down imports, reduce our standard of living, economise, tighten our belts. I quite agree, but there is another side to the medal which the noble Lord holds before us. I mention him because he is the chief economic adviser to His Majesty's present Ministers.
§ The other side is idle land, as we heard from noble Lords with great agricultural experience, idle mines, and idle factories—scores and scores of them up and down the country, not engaged on war work or diverted to manufacturing for export. I mention only one industry, the motor car and motor repairing industry, which has been hard hit by the war and where 738 you have a great reservoir of machinery and men not being used. The curious thing is that there is a shortage of labour in certain trades. Wool, cotton, and rayon are three in which there is a shortage of labour. Tool makers are short. Shipyard workers I have already mentioned. There is a shortage already, in certain districts, of agricultural workers, due to their being enticed away from the farms to work for contractors at much higher wages. There is a certain shortage already of merchant seamen and officers. Therefore, I repeat, it is partly a case of maldistribution. That needs to be taken in hand, and is not yet being tackled in what I choose to call a heroic way. I mentioned agricultural workers. I gave notice to the noble Earl that I should ask if he could give us information as to what has happened to the Women's Land Army. A great many patriotic women volunteered for training on the land and are not being utilised. One word more about shipbuilding before I leave it, for it is going to be of great importance in the future. I speak of merchant shipbuilding. In 1918 there were on the slips 1,480,000 tons of merchant shipping. I do not know the figures at present, and I do not ask for them, but at a guess—and it is approximately right, I think.—we have about 750,000 tons, not nearly enough, only half of what we had in 1918. I mentioned the sterilised yards. They should be opened up, of course. The explanation given in another place is, "Oh well, we shall do that when we have the workers." You have the workers if you can find some means of taking them to the jobs. They are there. It is a matter of seeking them out. There are idle shipyard workers in the places I have mentioned.
§ The Government will say that there are great difficulties in the switch-over from a peace to a war economy. We understand, of course, that it is difficult, but are the difficulties being really tackled in a great manner? We have already a training scheme for the older men and the youths—a great scheme that is going to be put in hand to train 40,000. With great respect, that is not big enough. You want many more than that. I do not want to appear too critical of the Government's effort, but the tempo is too slow. May I give one example? Seven months ago your Lordships passed the Ministry of Supply Act. Under that Act the Ministry 739 of Labour has the function of establishing area committees to find new capacity for production. There were to be twenty-three of these area committees covering the whole of the country with employers, trade unionists, and so on represented on them, to seek out new capacity for production. My information is that, so far, only three of these committees have been set up and are working—out of twenty-three—after seven months, and that seven more are expected before the end of this month. That is ten altogether by the end of March, after seven months' work. I said I had the greatest admiration for the Minister of Labour. He has been a long time in his present job, but he and his officials are not quick movers. I am sorry to have to say that, but these are serious times, and one has to be rather frank.
§ One other matter, about munition works. A great many of the munition factories and factories making supplies for the Fighting Services are not yet working night shifts. In other words, your factories which are functioning are not being used to their full capacity. There is a great deal of overtime being worked—perhaps too much. We learned the lesson of excessive overtime in the last war, and I hope we are not going to make that mistake again. Night shifts are badly needed. There, again, it is a question of organisation of labour. One alibi the Government will not attempt to use on this occasion, as in the last war up to a certain point, is that there has been difficulty from the side of the trade unions and organised labour. My information is that the trade unions and organised labour have been helpful in every way possible in relaxing restrictions, with certain safeguards, because, of course, they have their duty to their constituents; but I believe there has been no difficulty from that side.
§ May I say a word about the coal situation? This coal situation does not make sense at all. There are, as your Lordships are aware, still a great many unemployed miners. From the latest returns their numbers increased last month by 7,787. Your Lordships are aware that we have not too much steel in the country for our needs, and yet I see that the number of steel workers idle increased by 4,367. With regard to coal, there is a great domestic shortage 740 still. We are told there are transport difficulties. Were not these foreseen? What would have happened if we had had heavy bombing attacks as well as severe weather? It would have been quite serious. There is also the need for exporting coal. Your Lordships are aware of the trouble with Italy regarding German coal, and I hope we shall supply the Italian market with British coal. There is the Belgian market open to us. Am I right in saying—I have given notice to the noble Earl on this point—that the Germans were supplying 85 per cent. of the Belgian coal imports, and a month ago they cut them off so as to force the Belgians to enter into an economic arrangement with the Nazis? Why were we not able to step in and send that coal over? We shall be told there is a shipping shortage. Cannot we build more ships? That is the answer there. I know that the North-Eastern coalfield does not usually cater for the export market, but the North-Eastern coalfield is nevertheless suitable for the export market, and coal from there could be exported. I am sure the Belgians need that coal. They, in particular, would have been glad of our Durham and Yorkshire coal.
§ The unemployment in the coalfields is very remarkable. Take for example the Pontefract district of the Yorkshire coalfield. Practically the only industry there is coal mining. I shall quote now from an answer given in another place by Mr. Ernest Brown on February 15. He gave three sets of figures showing the unemployment at the exchanges of Normanton, Castleford and Pontefract. He gave the figures for last August, just before the war began, and the figures for January 15 last, and if I may repeat them to your Lordships you will notice there is practically no change and that unemployment in that great coalfield is static. The figures given were: Normanton, January 15 last, 447; August 14 (before the war), 458; Castleford, last January, 2,304; last August, 2,509; Pontefract, last January, 655; last August, 666. The figures are staggering. Practically the same number of men are still idle in that great coalfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
§ I have also the figures for South Wales, which is an export field. They also are very remarkable. I will not trouble your Lordships with all of them, but these are 741 a few examples. At Pontypridd, the unemployed on the register on August 14 last numbered 3,188; on January 15 last the number was 3,021—practically static; Tonyrefail, last August, 901; last January, 818—very little change. Then the people on insurance benefit in Pontypridd in September, on the outbreak of war, numbered 673, and on January 19 last that number had increased to 836; while the people on assistance allowance—that is, the men long out of work—in September numbered 2,129 and on January 19 last, 1,894—practically static again. That is in an exporting coalfield, and I really cannot understand it. There is something very curious about the whole coal situation. This weapon of our coal exports is a very sharp one in our economic warfare if we can use it. I have quoted the case of Belgium, and I have quoted the case of Italy. There are the markets for coal in Scandinavia, which could do with our coal at the present time. One of the most valuable exports of Germany to-day is its coal exports in the Baltic, which we cannot interfere with as yet. If we could take the place of the Germans there, it would weaken the German economic structure. Therefore I make no apology to your Lordships for dealing for a few moments with the unemployment position in the coalfields.
§ With regard to shipping tonnage, we may be told that it is not available for these coal exports. Why has there not been a large-scale purchase of neutral tonnage? Here and there there has been a small purchase of neutral shipping, but we ought to have gone into the market when we knew the war was coming. I suggest to your Lordships and the Government that we should then have snapped up all the neutral shipping we could get. The consequence is we are now buying these neutral ships at a great increase of price compared with that at which we could have bought them then. Was this once more a case of the Treasury standing in the way? The other suggestion I would make to your Lordships to meet the need of skilled men—because in certain trades there is a lack of skilled men—is that we should have a comb out of skilled men in the Auxiliary Police, the A.R.P., the A.F.S. and other services. I do not suggest that there should be anything in the nature of conscription of labour; you do not need that in this 742 country. You only have to make the right appeal to our people and they will come forward and undertake any tasks in their power to help the national effort. They require the right appeal to be made to them, and then you will get all the people you need. The present position in the labour market is not satisfactory. I do not think the noble Earl himself will contend it is satisfactory. I am afraid that the Party for whom I speak are disturbed and dissatisfied at the continued existence of this great army of willing workers only too anxious to help the national effort, for which, apparently, no one will hire them. I beg to move.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I think it is true to say that this debate has a connection with the one we had last week on the subject of inflation. However difficult the position is now, because of an increasing pressure, arising from additional wages, upon shrunken supplies, that position is bound to be worsened six months hence. Probably we shall come nearer to inflation by creating an increased purchasing power in the hands of those whom we wish now to get into employment, who will be needed in civil employment, and as munitions manufacturing gradually develops. I think, therefore, it is a good thing that we are having this debate to-night. I agree with many things that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said. Especially I agree with him when he said that he did not understand the picture which was presented by the official figures. Nor do I understand it. I think they leave much to be desired, in that those figures do not bring home to the public, and perhaps not to your Lordships' House, that one-half of all those who are registered as unemployed are not people who have been unemployed continuously for more than six weeks. People outside when they see these unemployment returns think that the whole of these poor people are out of work for long periods, probably continuously. That is not true. I speak from memory, but I think the Ministry of Labour stated on March 2 last year that half of them were only out continuously for six weeks or less, and that relatively very few of them were really unemployed for long periods continuously. That is not known by the people generally.
743 I think the way the returns are published does not allow us, in this House even, to understand what the real position is. The Association of Chambers of Commerce, with which I have been connected during a great part of my life, has been studying and protesting at the faulty way in which these figures are drawn up. A protest upon the subject was made by our President last year, and we have written to the Minister of Labour pointing out that this form of recording the figures is misleading. "Misleading" indeed is too mild a term for it. At last with the help of the Daily Telegraph we have got the Government to admit that the returns as they are now presented are misleading. The actual word "misleading" was used about the figures by the Lord Privy Seal himself a few weeks ago. He made that confession. Now this morning we see a real cats' cradle of calculations about the unemployment figures. There are subtractions and additions, alterations of counts, cross-calculations, and reservations. No one can make head or tail of them however he tries to find the real clue to the position.
It is no more possible to build an argument about this matter on shifting figures than it is to build a house on a swamp. The shifting platform of figures that is given to us to-day gives no foothold. The figures are arithmetically correct I have no doubt, but they distort the position of affairs, and present no true picture. There are many statistical corrections which will have to be made. I shall perhaps be doing now the best service of which I am capable if I point out some of the necessary alterations, so that those who follow in this debate, or those who read what is said here, may turn over in their minds the question whether a better method than that now followed by the Ministry of Labour cannot be adopted.
Every return should indicate in future if any change of weather has had a violent effect upon the figures. We see from today's return that 200,000 human beings have been affected in their living by the late severe weather. But only temporarily. It had nothing to do really with the general state of employment. It was a passing incident. It is very necessary that we should be able to see a true picture of our problem, to see every light and shade, to see the whole thing in proper proportion. It 744 is not merely a question of getting people back to work. We want to know more exactly—I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi was really able to tell us—what is the available pool of unused labour upon which we can fall back.
§ LORD MANCROFT
The noble Lord may be right. I do not know how he gets his figure. I cannot get it. He may have read speeches on the subject and he may have read articles in the Economist, but I myself cannot work it out at that total.
§ LORD MANCROFT
I should have thought it was slightly more. I should have thought it was more likely 900,000, but I say that under correction. Evidently we are in the dark. Therefore it is necessary for us to get our figures set out more correctly for our use in order that we may consider what we are doing and should do. Nearly a year ago I was listening in another place to a debate on this subject, and if I recollect rightly I heard then that the figures in the unemployment returns actually included figures of people who must go on to these unemployment returns in order to qualify for their old age pension or insurance, though they are not really seeking work. It is quite wrong to put such people on the unemployed list. To do that at once misleads us.
I ventured to intervene in the debate of December 7 last to remind the noble Lord, Lord Addison—and he admitted that it was true—that the Royal Commission on Unemployment stated that there was what they called a hard core of unemployment amounting to 600,000 to 800,000 people who could never be fully or satisfactorily employed in the best times of peace and prosperity. They were people who unfortunately were perhaps congenitally physically unfit or mentally unfit, or who, because of their age or because of injury, could never be able continuously to hold sustained work and be employed for long periods. How many of such persons are included? They cannot do the work available for them. Then there are the work-shy. All these persons should be taken out of the totals and explained 745 separately, in the way that an accountant dissects a balance sheet. Otherwise they mislead us. They are the permanent and inescapable load of national misery.
There is another point. Men are continually changing situations, going from one shop to another or to another town. Perhaps they may be out of work three days, and those three days may overlap the day on which the count is taken. They are shown as unemployed, although they are merely changing from one position to another or from one town to a job in another. To include those people increases quite falsely the figures of true unemployment. Then we have those who are known as seasonally unemployed persons. There were last January 267,000 builders and 65,000 persons in connected trades shown as unemployed. That is misleading. Now 200,000 of them are going back, because solely of the improved weather. These men get higher wages than they would normally get in similar grades of labour in order to compensate them for the risk they run of being out of work through stress of weather from time to time. They ought to be shown in a separate column. There are other seasonal workers, those employed at holiday resorts. They get bigger wages during the summer because they do not expect to work the whole year through. They also are shown as unemployed and without explanatory qualification. That again increases the figure of unemployment and is misleading. I estimate that these categories, by a hit and miss process, reduce the unemployment figures to-day by something in the neighbourhood of at least 600,000 persons.
All these people whom I have just mentioned are willing workers and should be identified. But there are, I am sorry to say, some who are unwilling workers. We saw before the war that comfortable wages and healthy occupation in domestic service could be found for many more young women and girls than were available. I do not believe in the story that mistresses or masters ill-treat or underfeed those who are employed in domestic service, or that these young women are less healthy and comfortable and free than they would be in the factory or the shop. If there and such ill-conditioned masters or mistresses, then they should be dropped on by the trade union leaders or by the State. I think it is quite wrong 746 that young women should refuse, as they did refuse, domestic employment or transfer and training to go into the clothing trade in the West Riding, where they were required twelve months ago, because they preferred to stay, or their parents preferred to keep them at home drawing unemployment pay. We know that private residents were obliged to employ many women from the Continent because women for domestic service were not available here. That position also should be explained in any return of unemployment. When we next have a debate on unemployment we shall then know more clearly where we are about unwilling workers who draw unemployment pay rather than transfer and train. It would be more enlightening also for those of us who are manufacturers to have a more detailed dissection of all unemployment figures.
Those for whom I speak have some remedies to suggest and with your Lordships' permission I will mention one or two of them. The first is that if there are seasonal workers for whom no occupation can be found at their usual work after the weather breaks, the Government should invite them to come into groups—small groups if you like—and transfer them to those parts of the country where their labour can be used; small groups to overcome housing difficulties. The noble Lord opposite touched on the point of transference of labour, but he must remember that 64 per cent. of those on the unemployment list are unskilled labourers, and it is their plight which, to begin with, we must try to remedy. Although he said that the trade unions were willing, and had been very willing, to help to find occupation for those who are out of work, the action of the Electricians' Union should be put on record, so that their fellow-countrymen may know what is going on. The conduct of the Electricians' Union, lately, should be made known. It does them no credit. I think on the whole that the trade unions have behaved well, but there are some who have not behaved well in this time of national trouble, and their fellow-countrymen should know it.
Your Lordships know that we desire to stimulate exports, and that exports are not increasing in the way in which we should like them to go forward. There are, among others, two reasons for this. Goods cannot be sold until they are made, 747 and they cannot be made until you have the raw materials with which to manufacture them. I do not know whether the raw material Controls are working smoothly and expeditiously. It is a difficult task controlling, satisfactorily, raw material distribution. We discussed it in your Lordships' House some months ago, and I for one expressed myself strongly about the clogs on trade that were imposed by Controls, from knowledge given to me to report here, by various Chambers of Commerce whose members could not get their raw materials. I think the Export Council should send some of its members round to the various control depots—and they are spread all over England—to see whether the officials are competent. I am not going to say anything unkind about them. It is a highly skilled task, and officials there cannot be expected at short notice to administer the very complicated controlling organisation as well as could be wished. But still they should not be left to go on without being checked and tested themselves and examined to see that they are competent to do the work, and quickly.
The next thing that is said is that there is a shortage of plant. I was surprised to hear the noble Lord opposite say that there was no shortage of convenient factory accommodation. I do not say that I should like to be allowed to doubt that, because I am sure he would not say anything he did not know. But it is news to me that there is no shortage of plant and of factory accommodation, to be used if raw materials can be obtained to process the materials into manufactured goods to send abroad. Now if there is a shortage or surplus of factories, what objection is there to the Government taking steps to decide that point; or, if there is a shortage of plant, and I am sure there is, why not send in plant designers at the expense of the country? Let us get shortage of plant or buildings put right, even if there be no timber. It will help employment for export. I will say a word about timber in a moment. Has any survey of the need of plant yet been made? Let it be made. It is true that we do not want timber for buildings to the extent that we did a few years ago, because we can use steel girders and concrete. But still, timber is required; it is wanted for exterior 748 and interior construction and for fittings for ships; and the soft timber, of course, for pit wood. A shortage of pit wood may be the cause of the non-expansion of the production of coal to which the noble Lord referred. A Lancashire coalowner told me some days ago that he had been held up for lack of pit wood.
Why is there a shortage of timber? Timber is one of the essential things used by a manufacturing nation. Surely those in control, whether they be Ministers or those under them, must have known two or three years ago, or at any rate a year ago, that there was a likelihood of war. Timber is not a perishable article; why was not a reserve of hardwood timber from overseas and pit wood not only from Scandinavia and from Canada, but also from the British Empire and from Brazil obtained and stored? Several good woods in Brazil are obtainable and useful. A large number of woods from His Majesty's Dominions—a longer haul—could be obtained. We required imports from Brazil in order to adjust an export and import account which before the war gave difficulties. I suggest that it would have been a good thing if someone had had the initiative to see that imported timber was accumulated against the chance of war. It seems to me that we have forgotten the old Greek word Kaipós, taking the initiative. That was the standard of merit among the Athenians: they required their leaders to do the right thing without being told: to do it in the right way, at the right moment. Most of our troubles now seem to be due to the fact that we never see ahead anything that will be required.
Some of the troubles of this war that are reflected in the unemployment returns may be owing to the fact that for years we tried to find reasons why we should not act, and then, when war broke out, we do everything in a hurry at the last moment. It is all very well having able Ministers, but unless Ministers and advisers and officials have imagination as well, their abilities are worth very little. You must foresee a little. We have had recent evidence of the lack of foresight in this winter's coal situation. Did not those in control foresee that there might be a winter-time with severe frost, and that coal should be taken out well beforehand and widely distributed all over the country so that there should be a reserve store of it? That severe weather should 749 have been foreseen with a little imaginative initiative. I do not like to say the proper word to describe this lack of initiative and foresight. That lack is one of the disadvantages under which we are now working. We had two, three or four years' warning about the necessity for a Ministry of Information: what a mess was made of that! And at the last moment, all in a hurry. We had any amount of warning that we should want food; what a muddle they made of the fish distribution! It was put on with no test, and was scrapped after three weeks. We had the hotels and schools requisitioning muddle, and now we have the wood muddle.
There is another thing which should be done, and could be done without any difficulty. The Unemployment Central Register should give more details of a man's or woman's technical or professional ability. A number of persons of both sexes now on the register had retired and were taking their pension, and have very patriotically come back. They are ready to work and are on the register; they have come back in order to volunteer to do all they can in their particular capacities. Some are there more for patriotism than for pay. These and other men and women should have their professional capacities and abilities—as Lord Strabolgi was talking about the black-coated workers—classified more definitely, so that employers can see what skilled help they can obtain and can pick suitable persons out without difficulty and get whom they want and to work without delay.
I should like to sum up what I have said. There must be an inspection and test of the way in which controlled raw material is being released for the export trade, so that men may go into the export trade and work and exports may be created. There must be an inspection to discover what is necessary to remedy shortage of plant; and there must be a better classification of the technical or professional abilities of unemployed men in the unemployment returns. Above all, there must be a proper explanation of what the unemployment returns consist of and indicate. However much I disagree with some of the details of Lord Strabolgi's Motion, I think it has served a good purpose, for it has drawn the attention of the Departments responsible to the need for less misleading records and for a general revision of the 750 integral factors by which unemployment returns are compiled and published for the guidance of the public.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF STAIR
My Lords, I do not know whether it would be appropriate, under the Motion that Lord Strabolgi has moved, to raise the question I wish to ask the noble Earl who is to reply. I should like to ask him one definite question, and that is whether our labour exchanges are instructed, and whether it is their job, to find work for the people on their books, or whether their main duty is to keep a large number of unemployable people on their books and prevent them from being employed. I can give a concrete example. During the last month or so in Scotland a labour exchange was applied to by the local authority, by the road surveyor, for men to clear the roads of snow. The whole country at the time was snowbound, roads and railways; everybody was running short of food, and it was impossible to get anything to anywhere. The local authority applied to the nearest employment exchange for men. The employment exchange had a considerable number of men on its books. The agricultural minimum wage at that time was 10d. or 10½d.—I have forgotten which—for entirely unskilled labour. I may say that I strongly disapprove at any time of minimum wages, and particularly I disapprove of the minimum rates for agriculture, but as we have got a minimum wage, I presume that it is the job of the Ministry of Labour to back up the wage which is fixed locally by the wages board.
The employment exchange to which that application for workers was made refused to supply any men at all unless they were paid 1s. 1d. per hour. They were not asked for any form of skill, and the work was for no purpose except to facilitate the supply of their own food and that of everybody else. Some men were eventually taken on at that rate, and then they struck for 1s. 6d. per hour. I saw some of them working and I will guarantee that I could have done more work in half the time. I have no claim to be a skilled labourer, but I could and did do more work in an hour than those people did individually in a day. I know plenty of people at home who have on various occasions in the last year or two applied for men when 751 there were plenty of men on the books of the employment exchanges, and they have been invariably unsuccessful in getting any form of work out of them at rates very considerably over the wage which was fixed. There is a general impression held by the ordinary man in the street, I think, that these employment exchanges deliberately try to keep people on their books and refuse to let them work.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ LORD MILFORD
My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in this debate, but the noble Lord opposite, Lord Strabolgi, has spoken of the dictators being in a position to give full employment in their countries while we have a certain difficulty in getting full employment here, and I venture to suggest that the fact really is that in a dictatorship country the people are practically slaves, and you can give them a miserable wage. We could employ all our people here in those conditions. I am sure I could organise it myself. You could employ everybody at a sufficiently low wage, but we in this country are trying to keep up a high standard of living, and the point is that if the standard of living is very high, only a certain number of businesses can run. It is really our attempt to keep up the standard of living which causes us such great difficulty in getting over unemployment.
Then the shipbuilding question was raised. I think a great deal of the difficulty there arises on the question of the key men. Most of our unemployment is, I believe, among the ordinary workmen, but in shipbuilding the difficulty is that you want so many skilled workers. As regards the question of the purchase of neutral ships, which was raised by the noble Lord opposite, I am a shipowner myself, and my partner, Sir Philip Haldin, brought in a scheme to try to stop ships being broken up. We fought for about two years to get the Government to take up that scheme to buy up boats which were for sale simply at breaking-up price. If the Government would have given £1,000 more than the breaking-up price they could have bought them all, but eventually they were either broken up or sold to Greeks or Spaniards or Italians. It is no good advising them now to buy neutral ships. British shipowners 752 are allowed to make very little, but in the case of the neutral ships the rates for freight that they have been charging are so enormous that it would almost seem that neutral ships are made of gold or diamonds at the present time, and no English shipowner could possibly buy them, for the moment he bought a neutral ship it would be practically valueless because he would not be allowed to make a profit. I think it would be perfectly ridiculous for the Government, having made neutral ships worth their weight in gold, to go and buy them now.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, I think I had better reply at once to my noble friend Lord Stair in regard to the question which he raised. An exchange would not in any circumstances refuse to supply names to an employer, but what they do in all these instances is to put the chance of employment before the unemployed person and offer him the job. It is for the individual to decide whether he will take that job or not, because, this being still a free country, of course a man cannot be forced to take a job if he does not want it. The question of wage may come in, in which case the exchange would no doubt inform the employer if the wage were too low, and perhaps a higher wage would get the individual.
§ THE EARL OF STAIR
It was a concrete case that I was talking about, and there was a definite refusal to put the employment before the men.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Is it not the case that if suitable employment is offered to a workman at the standard wage, and he refuses it, he is no longer entitled to unemployment allowance?
§ EARL STANHOPE
Yes, if he belongs to that particular industry, but if a man is an engineer and is offered, for instance, roadmaking work, he would be entitled to say "No." Of course, if a man refuses work in his own particular category he loses the "dole." But there can be no question of any exchange wishing to keep a large number of unemployed on its books. Indeed, that would be looked upon as a bad mark against that exchange. If my noble friend has any instance in mind and will send it to the Minister of Labour, he will of course go into the matter forthwith.
753 The subject to which the noble Lord opposite Lord Strabolgi, has drawn attention is one which is puzzling many people. Why is it, they ask, that with so many men engaged already in the three Fighting Services, and in spite or all our efforts to get a vast war production and to increase our export trade, there is still something like one and a half million people unemployed? And, perhaps arising out of that, are we really getting that drive forward both in regard to our war industries and to our export that we all expect and wish to attain? I hope that at any rate as regards that second question, I shall be able to satisfy the noble Lord that the Government's effort is indeed very remarkable. The reply to the first question is much more difficult because the trouble is due to a variety of causes, and there is no simple explanation to give in regard to it. I must agree entirely with what was said by the noble Lord behind me, Lord Mancroft, as regards the unemployment figures being extraordinarily misleading. The counts which took place on January 15 and February 11 came in the middle of some of the severest wintry weather that we have had for many generations, when all work in several big industries such as building, public works and agriculture, was at a complete standstill.
Although I cannot agree with the noble Lord behind me who considers the Government to be wanting in all kinds of foresight, I admit that we none of us foresaw the kind of wintry weather that we have had in the past few months. I do not think any of us remember ever having had a winter like it. The results have been, of course, quite extraordinary. Take agriculture as an example. Including forestry, horticulture and gardening, there were on February 11, 68,531 persons unemployed in that one industry alone, 26,250 more than were unemployed on December 11; and the total figure for unemployment on January 15 was no less than 1,518,896. That is more, I am afraid, than the noble Lord opposite thought; I believe he said 1,300,000. For February 11 the figure, which is published to-day, is only 14,796 less, the severe weather still being with us at that time, although it was perhaps not quite so severe as it had been a month before. When, however, a count was taken a fortnight later, that is to say on February 26, when the bad 754 weather had passed away, the Ministry of Labour were satisfied that there was a reduction of no less than 200,000, as I think the noble Lord mentioned. That shows how much some of the unemployment is due to seasonal conditions with which none of us can really deal. I admit, however, that the figure is disturbingly large, but I do maintain that, as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said, it does not really represent the true situation. This is due to the fact that this unemployment figure includes a large group who are only temporarily stopped—that is to say, those stopped for weather conditions or because there is a shortage of raw material or because some particular part of some machine has not turned up. It may be a very short stop, lasting only a few days. Then there are those who are normally in casual employment, such as dock labourers, and workers in the building trade, who work in fine weather but not when there is a frost. There is also a very large number—some hundreds of thousands, I understand—who are on the register while transferring from one employment to another.
§ EARL STANHOPE
This justification, that he is not certain that he will be in employment again for three days. He docs not get any benefit for three days, but he does from the fourth day. Unless he is quite certain that he will be in his new employment the next day or the day after that, he will put his name down, so as to be certain that he will obtain unemployment pay forthwith. There is also, I understand, some point in connection with registration. I do not think that it has to do with pensions, but I think that it has to do not only with unemployment, but with sickness benefit and so on; he has to put his name down to show that he is changing from one industry to another, and therefore his benefit's are to go on in the new industry which he then enters. That accounts for a very large number. As I think both noble Lords said, the Ministry of Labour estimate that less than half the number of those who are shown as unemployed are actually available to meet requirements for additional 755 workers, and already in certain industries there is a very material shortage of workers.
There is another point which is very misleading with regard to these figures. Very often you will find a man shown as unemployed in, say, either coal mining or shipbuilding. Those who are shown under shipbuilding are all those connected with that industry, and include clerks, general labourers, transport workers and so on. Even cleaners in an engine-shed may be shown as engineers. In the same way, an engineer who is working in the bakery trade is shown as a baker and not as an engineer. In other words, men are shown under their occupational categories and not under their vocational categories, and therefore very often you will find that, while a large number may be shown under a particular industry, they are not skilled men in that industry at all, whether it be a case of shipbuilders or of engineers or whatever it may be. That is one of the reasons why there is a shortage in regard to the building of ships. The noble Lord asks why we do not open some of the shipyards which have been closed, but the difficulty in many of these cases is to find the highly-skilled man who must be in charge of the job and who is really essential before you can employ what I would call the fitter's mate. Until we can get these people properly allocated to the various shipyards on jobs where they will be employed to the very best advantage there are bound to be a certain number of those who are engaged in that industry but who are not highly skilled in it who will remain unemployed.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord opposite that trade union workers are doing their utmost to meet this very difficult situation, and there have been meetings of employers and employed to see how to use the labour that we have to the best possible advantage. Both sides naturally stand out for certain privileges and certain rights which they have obtained over a long period of years and which they wish to sec safeguarded, but both sides are doing their utmost to help the Government in every possible way, and certainly I am not going to make any sort of complaint in that respect. One point which is, I think, very encouraging 756 is that the actual number of long-term unemployed had dropped by January 1 last to 136,669, a reduction of nearly 40 per cent. That is the hard core of unemployment, which a number of Governments have been trying to tackle. It must be a satisfaction to all of us, whatever our political Party may be, that a reduction of nearly 40 per cent. has been effected.
I still have not replied to the question, "Why are there so many unemployed?" I think that the answer really is that we have not yet anything like completed the change-over from peace-time conditions to war-time conditions. In the last war, as noble Lords will remember, the slogan for nearly two years was "Business as usual." In this war we know too much! We have been through it before, and we recognised, of course, that "Business as usual" was impossible, and that what we were faced with was so big a thing that every kind of business must naturally be very seriously affected. There were many other reasons, but one in particular is that almost at once the Income Tax in this country was put up to 7s. 6d. in the pound, as against, I think, 1s. 8d. last time. I commend that to the noble Lord opposite, because he will realise that if you tax private capital and private income it is impossible that the same amount of employment can be given by a lesser amount of goods being purchased.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Perhaps it was, but there is, of course, the other side to the question, which is that the country requires the money for war purposes. In addition there was, of course, the blackout, and both the diminution in private incomes and the black-out have hit a number of industries very hard indeed. The shopkeeping classes, the entertainment industry and the catering industry have all suffered very severely as a result of those two causes alone. On the other hand, war industries and exports, greatly as they have increased, have not yet got fully into their stride. When the noble Lord said that Germany perhaps had advantages in that respect, from the short point of view I am inclined to agree with him. Germany had all her industries mobilised, and was able to go full steam 757 ahead from the moment war began; but she had no reserves. One of the advantages that we possess is that, as factories are built and machinery comes into production, we still have labour available to change from a non-vital industry into a vital one, labour which we can use to the advantage of the country. While our output both for war industries and for export will go steadily up, Germany is already at her peak and can do no more.
Now, while it is true that, for instance, the Reserve Fleet was mobilised quite early in August and a large number of militiamen had already been called up before war began, none the less what is not, I think, realised so well is that there were some 200,000 new entrants into industry between July and November, and no fewer than 100,000 re-entrants. These are people who came back to increase our output during our preparations for war. But when industry is really going, when these factories are all completed, and the machinery is actually working, then I have not the smallest doubt that the additional labour that will be required this year will exceed the total number now shown as unemployed. Your Lordships will realise how difficult is going to be the question of meeting that demand for labour because, from the various remarks I have already made regarding the unemployment figures, you will recognise that by no means the whole of that number is available to put into industry. The number is only going to be found by a very difficult process of getting people to change from industries in which they may have been working for a number of years into some new industry which is more vital to the country than the one in which they were working in the past.
The noble Lord mentioned the black-coated workers. A good deal of attention has been given at the Ministry of Labour to that particular subject. As the noble Lord knows, a Central Register was set up, but a good many of the people on the Central Register were not unemployed black-coated workers. I am informed that a good deal more than half of the persons on the Central Register were in employment, and doubtless are still in employment. They were people with special qualifications—chartered accountants, members of the engineering institutes, and others with professional attainments or degrees which they had 758 obtained at Universities and elsewhere. They were men who thought they had special qualifications and desired to put them at the disposal of the State, and therefore they put their names on this Central Register. Very grateful we are to them for doing so, because we have used a good many of them in public Departments and so on. But that Central Register did not really deal with the unemployed black-coated worker. To deal with him, my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour set up what is called the Supplementary Register which came into being just after Christmas. I understand that some 9,000 persons have put their names on to it up to the present, and something like one-half come from London, where, of course, the problem has been greatest. Any who wish to put their names on this Supplementary Register can do so by writing to any of the offices of the Ministry of Labour, and their names will be sent to the nearest office which has been set up for this purpose. There are fifteen selected offices in the main centres of population, and names will be sent to the one that looks the most suitable for them. On the other hand, all those who wish to draw on that black-coated labour, and can offer it employment, have only to apply to any Labour Exchange, and there is a clearing office which will bring the unemployed black-coated worker into touch with the job that is shown to be available.
As regards coal, the noble Lord referred to the unemployment in the mining industry. Actually, unemployment in the mines is at its lowest level for several years past. The number of insured people registered as unemployed on January 15 was 60,516 as compared with 190,687 in July, 1938, and the figure now is 7.2 per cent. of those actually shown as employed in coal mining. But if the 13,000 temporarily stopped are deducted, the total percentage unemployed comes down to 5.7 per cent. The fact that there is even that number is due, as the noble Lord recognised, to transport difficulties. Transport of coal from the mines was, of course, completely held up by heavy snow-drifts in the North, and in many cases the workers were unable to get to the mines to work at all. Then came the bad jam in clearing the shunting yards and so on, and getting trains under way. Steps have been taken both by the 759 Ministry of Transport and other Departments concerned to get this clear, and the railway companies and their employees have worked magnificently for several week-ends. They have taken steps which have relieved that congestion, and the stream of coal, if I may so call it, is now moving freely once again. As a matter of tact, there was an additional difficulty at that moment because, as noble Lords know, there has been an epidemic of influenza, and I understand that railway workers, particularly in the North, suffered severely from it. There was a real shortage of labour amongst engine drivers and other employees of the railways, but that, I understand, is very much less, and therefore that difficulty, too, is passing away.
It has also to be remembered that a very large amount of the coal that comes to London and the South comes by sea, and there, too, there have been difficulties, not so much due to enemy sinkings, which, as we all rejoice to know, have so far been very much less than in 1917; but the mere fact of what has to be done now in time of war in regard to shipping as a whole has made a difference. A good deal of shipping has been withdrawn from carrying goods while it was being armed so as to be able to defend itself from attack both from the air and from submarines. I hope it will not be long before that is completed. In the case of the bigger ships, I understand, it has already been completed, but some of the smaller cargo ships have still to be clone. And of course the arrangement of convoys does cause delay, as I am sure the noble Lord knows full well, and does reduce our carrying capacity. Therefore, the shortage of coal in the South has been due not only to the weather, but to the conditions imposed on shipping as the result of being at war. This of course also affects our export trade, and has stopped us from sending quite as much overseas as we should have liked to do. But the arrangement in regard to convoys is working more and more smoothly, as everybody gets accustomed to it, and I hope we shall be able to fulfil very many more orders from overseas than we have been able to do, with great advantage to our export trade. I can only say this with regard to the main question, that the Ministry of Labour is much more concerned as to where we are to find 760 adequate labour for the mines than to deal with the actual number of miners unemployed. There will be a shortage of labour rather than any to spare.
As regards agriculture, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Agriculture are preparing an estimate of the labour which will be required throughout this year, by counties. They are asking the county agricultural committees to give them as near an estimate as they can of the numbers that will be required. They hope, when these figures are available, to be able to take steps to meet these demands as they arise in specific areas. There is also already a mobile labour officer who will organise men and women in gangs and move them from farm to farm as the work on each farm is completed. For instance, they will complete the hay harvest at one farm and move on to the next, and we hope in that way that some further assistance will be given to farmers who are short of labour. In addition, local authorities are being asked to release men who normally do road work, which will be more limited this year both in order to save money and also because there is likely to be much less motoring than in normal times, and these men will be available also to help with the harvest. Further, if the need is shown to be sufficient, soldier labour will be available for harvesting, and plans have been made in order to use refugee labour (possibly boys under military age) and for hay harvest and so on, possibly some of the elder boys in school. Actually on February 12, largely, of course, owing to the weather conditions to which I have already referred, there was a very large number of unemployed—no less than 68,531. I have not the smallest doubt that farmers are pressing on with the ploughing-up campaign and all the other work that has been held up by the weather in the past four months, and that the number of unemployed is a great deal less now than it was only three weeks ago.
The noble Lord asked about the Women's Land Army. I understand that there were some 30,000 applications to join the Land Army, and the number who had actually enrolled on January 31 was 16,650. By the end of January, 4,200 volunteers had completed four to eight weeks' training. Of these, about 2,000 761 are now in agricultural employment, and a further 250 who were actually placed in employment have for one reason or another since resigned. There were a further 550 who after they had completed their course of training resigned for all sorts of reasons, perhaps because they found that alter all the work was not suitable, or was too heavy for them, and they never actually took up employment. Of the remaining 1,400, half returned to non-agricultural work until they are actually wanted on the land. During the winter months the demand for them is, of course, small. Some of them have been absorbed since January, and some are waiting till a job appears close to their own homes, and in their own county, because they do not wish to accept work in other parts of the country. Actually, therefore, very few are waiting for employment. The number now training is about 500. Of those who enrolled as volunteers, a very large number have offered themselves for the period of the war as soon as they are wanted, and they will be trained on farms from the moment that their work becomes necessary. I believe that the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Agriculture think they will have some difficulty in finding a sufficient number of milkers, but, in regard to the others, probably the applications for them will not be very numerous, and therefore the number of women in the Land Army will be sufficient.
A few words as to the future. As regards exports, as your Lordships know an Export Council has already been set up, and its immediate task is to assist in the export trade with a view not only to maintaining it but to increasing it greatly if we can. I am afraid at this moment I cannot say any more about the export trade, because a White Paper is to be published to-night which, I think, will be in your Lordships' hands to-morrow. I cannot very well anticipate what will be in it, but I may add that four members of the Export Council are now devoting their whole time to the task which lies before the Council of increasing our export trade, and they have already had discussions with the representatives of a number of industries, notably those concerned with wool, cotton, leather, rubber, clothing, footwear, pottery, chemicals, cutlery and hollow ware, and various sections of the engineering industry.
762 As regards the Ministry of Supply, I can perhaps give your Lordships more information, although I have to be careful not to say anything which would be of value to the enemy. A great deal of preparatory work was done in the years preceding the war, and plans had already been made in a good many directions. Again, the Ministry of Labour and various Service Departments had already thought out plans to be put into operation when a big war expansion became necessary. The idea was to bring the factory to the worker rather than the worker to the factory, because one of the problems which is always difficult to deal with is, as the noble Lord reminded us, that labour is often far from being mobile, and even when it is mobile, the worker has to be accommodated somewhere, and there may be a bad housing shortage or other circumstances which make the situation extraordinarily difficult. Then, very often, the workers are unwilling to go to a particular area because they are aware of the difficulties there in regard to accommodation. Therefore the Government has largely planned, so far as strategical and technical considerations allow, that the factories shall be put where the actual workers are to be found. We started this war with nine ordnance factories as against the three which existed when the war of 1914 began.
§ LORD MANCROFT
Will the noble Earl tell us what has been done to help the manufacturers engaged in the export trade? What has been done to let them have the raw material which they require? Is it a fact that they are getting the raw material as quickly as they want it?
§ EARL STANHOPE
I think the noble Lord had better wait to see what is in the White Paper. I know the matter he has mentioned has been receiving a great deal of attention by the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Shipping, and I think, if the noble Lord waits for the White Paper, he will find something in it on the question he has asked. Apart from the nine ordnance factories I have mentioned, a. very large number of others are actually under construction and a good many will shortly be coming into operation. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Strabolgi) will realise that all these factories mean additional labour, and the demand for it will be very great indeed. In addition, expansions to works of private firms have 763 been approved in no fewer than 400 separate cases, some of them shadow factories, which we knew of before the war began, but a very large number have come into existence since; and no less than £50,000,000 of capital has been put into that additional construction from the Government side, apart from what has been done by private individuals and firms. We are already making ten times as many shells per week as we were at a similar period after the start of the war in 1914. We hope by the end of this year that our production will exceed the peak that we reached in 1918. The noble Lord will realise that the Ministry of Supply has not been idle in going ahead, and that there has been no lack of drive. We hope to be producing 14,000,000 tons of steel this year, as against the 8,000,000 tons which were available in 1914. We believe that the production of machine tools in this country will make us far more independent of foreign countries than we were in the last war, when of course these purchases entailed the use of foreign exchange, which we hope this time to save, particularly in the case of the United States of America, where our exchange requirements are more difficult to meet than they are in other countries. We expect that this year we shall produce no fewer than 100,000 motor vehicles of all kinds as against 40,000 that we manufactured during the whole course of the last war.
In regard to clothing also there is a very remarkable story. The peace-time demand for khaki cloth was 300,000 yards per annum. We have now reached a production of 1,500,000 yards per month. The production of serge for battle dress is now 200,000 yards per month, and the production of shirting per month is 1,125,000 yards. The production of overcoats prior to the war was 500,000 a year, and the monthly production has now almost reached this figure. I think my noble friend Lord Woolton is to be congratulated on that achievement. As to using small firms, an area organisation has been set up. I think the noble Lord opposite said that only three centres were actually in existence. I am glad to tell him that he has seriously under-estimated the number. Within the next week or two there will be eleven centres functioning in Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester, 764 Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast, and a further twelve will be functioning very shortly.
The figures which I have given your Lordships are those furnished to me by the Ministry of Supply, but figures from the Board of Admiralty in regard to shipbuilding both for the Royal Navy and the merchant fleet are not less remarkable, and in a very short time will be, I hope, still more remarkable. If I were to give the figures of those engaged in aircraft production I think your Lordships would realise how great is the effort we are making. I cannot give those figures, because they might give an indication to Germany as to the number of machines we have under construction, but I can assure your Lordships that they are in line with those instances I have given of the work that is being done. When we realise that even yet not all factories are in production and that those that are in production have not yet reached their full output, I think your Lordships will realise that so far from being worried as to the number of those who are unemployed the thing that actually worries the Government is where labour is to be found for the work which we foresee and for the factories and machinery which will then be available. I am afraid I have not been able to meet all the points made by the noble Lord opposite, but I hope that what I have said shows that the Government have this matter very much in mind. Although on the face of it it may seem extraordinary that we should still have 1,500,000 unemployed I think that what I have said will show that very shortly our difficulty will be of a very different character.
§ 5.35 p.m.
My Lords, I do not propose to press my Motion for Papers, but I should like to say that I am very much obliged to the noble Earl for his reply and to those other noble Lords who were good enough to intervene in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, referred to the Electrical Trades Union as having been difficult about labour supplies. I sent at once to another place to make inquiries about that, and I am sure he will be very glad to know that the statement in the newspapers to which I think he was referring related only to one branch, and that there are local reasons for the attitude of that branch.
As the noble Lord referred to the situation in Athens in bygone times, may I say that J hope he is going to be our Pericles in this war? I thank him for supporting me in some of the pleas I made to the Government. The refusal of some girls to go to Leeds and other places to work twelve months ago is quite understandable. I am perfectly certain—and I am sure the noble Earl will support me in this—that if the right appeal is made to the young women of to-day to take up war work they will be no more backward than were their mothers twenty years ago. We were living in times of peace twelve months ago, and one could not expect then that young women should go into domestic service if they did not care for it. If the right appeal is made to them they will respond. If the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, made such an appeal he would be a kind of Pied Piper of Hamelin and all the young people would be flocking after him.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Milford, also for supporting me in the matter of the dictator countries. Of course there is a sort of slavery there, and already there is great strain in Germany because of the pace at which people are being forced to work. But we shall beat them by our voluntary effort. The trouble is, if I may say so with great respect to the noble Earl, that the people are not given a lead, and are not told what they should do. I am very glad that the Government recognise that the position is disturbing, because that gives hope of greater effort. I hope those noble Lords who are interested in agriculture will have noted the figures of the women land workers—only 1,400 trained and only 500 in training. This is not satisfactory. I know there are difficulties and prejudices to be overcome, but we need to cultivate all available land, and there will be a shortage of land workers later on. I hope, therefore, that the matter of women land workers will be tackled on a much greater scale. Otherwise we may find ourselves in difficulties over food production in the future. I take it, however, that the Government are alive to that, and are going to take steps to push on with the training of more women land workers. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.